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16 of the coolest apps for Cardboard, Google's DIY virtual reality headset

1. Google Earth

1. Google Earth

Google Earth is accessible via the default Google Cardboard app, which also includes a number of other demos. It's one of the most exciting showcase of the possibilities of VR: Sure, the textures are low-res, and the 3D models of cities it generates (while cool) are somewhat blocky.

But it lets you fly anywhere in the world in VR 3D, using only your smartphone and a bit of cardboard. And that is absolutely wild.

Google Play Store link »

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2. Google Street View

2. Google Street View

Another Google app not originally designed for Cardboard, Google Street View is exciting for much the same reason Google Earth is. At a stroke, Google has transformed its entire catalogue of the world's cities, previously a neat feature primarily used for navigating, into an interactive, explorable, virtual reality playground.

Ever wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower? Now you can. Wanna stroll down Fifth Avenue gazing up at the Empire State Building? Not a problem. How about just exploring the beautiful Norwegian coastline because you can? The world is your oyster.

Just load your desired destination in the app, and hit the Cardboard icon in the corner.

Google Play Store link »

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3. Caaaaardboard!

3. Caaaaardboard!

Caaaaardboard! is a game for Cardboard that has you jumping off buildings, performing stunts, and collecting points.

It costs $1.99, or £1.29 in the UK.

Google Play Store link »

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4. Vrse

4. Vrse

Vrse offers you the very best in virtual reality videos and content. It curates and showcases VR material from a variety of different sources, including music videos, short films, and The New York Times' pioneering virtual reality news reports.

Google Play Store link »

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5. VR Roller Coaster attraction

5. VR Roller Coaster attraction

Roller coaster apps are one of the best ways to get used to Cardboard — and show off its potential to others. The unimaginatively named "VR Roller Coaster attraction" takes the user through an interesting jungle setting, while not being so energetic it becomes nauseating — like some in the Googe Play Store.

It has one downside, however; while it is free to download, you can only use it a set number of times before it tries to make you pay.

Google Play Store link »

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6. Seene

6. Seene

Seene is a photo-sharing social network with a twist: Users' images are three-dimensional. Launched in 2013, it pre-dates Google Cardboard, and doesn't require it to run. But if you have the headset, it offers you a whole new way to experience photos on the platform. It's also totally free.

Google Play Store link »

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7. Crazy Swing VR

7. Crazy Swing VR

If you're after a slightly more involved roller coaster sim, check out Crazy Swing VR. It puts the user in on a fairground ride in the middle of a city (in space, because why not) — and produces the most convincing sensations of depth and motion than any Cardboard apps I've tried to date.

It's made by the same people as VR Roller Coaster attraction, and like it — annoyingly — you can only use it a certain number of times for free before it asks you to pay.

Google Play Store link »

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8. Lamper VR

8. Lamper VR

Some of the best Cardboard apps are the ones that don't try to do too much. Sure, in years to come, VR will achieve insane, photo-realistic worlds — but for now, it is just a smartphone, two lenses and some cardboard.

Lamper VR offers a taste of gaming on Cardboard without being confusing. The player controls a bee and flies them down a series of tunnels, collecting tokens and avoiding obstacles. It's simple, but has its charm.

Google Play Store link »

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9. Insidious VR

9. Insidious VR

It may just be a glorified trailer for a movie, but Insidious VR is well-reviewed, and stands as a showcase for the kind of content that virtual reality can excel at. It places the user in a house beset by supernatural activities.

Google Play Store link »

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10. Titans of Space Cardboard VR

10. Titans of Space Cardboard VR

One of the key draws of virtual reality is being able to explore other worlds, and Titans of Space does just that. It lets you travel around our Solar System, providing facts and details about the planets and celestial objects you encounter.

Google Play Store link »

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11. War Of Words

11. War Of Words

This standalone VR experience places recites war poet Siegfried Sassoon's "The Kiss" to you in a stylised landscape. It makes for a nice change of pace from the dozens of identikit roller-coaster apps available for Cardboard.

Google Play Store link »

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12. Sisters

12. Sisters

Sisters is a VR mystery-horror game, designed to be worn with headphones for the full effect.

Google Play Store link »

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13. Proton Pulse

13. Proton Pulse

Ignore the clichéd blurb about superpowerful AI and saving the galaxy at the start — it's the classic game Breakout, remade in virtual reality, and that's all you need to know.

It costs £1.27 in the UK, and $1.99 in the US.

Google Play Store link »

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14. Lantens for Google Cardboard

14. Lantens for Google Cardboard

There's no real point to Lanterns, but that doesn't detract from it. You just stand by a lake and a bridge, and take in the ambience. You can change the time of day, as well as the number of lanterns floating in the sky. It makes for a calmer introduction to VR than some of the other apps available.

Google Play Store link »

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15. Orbulus

15. Orbulus

Orbulus is effectively a gallery for a number of 360-degree photospheres, ranging from idyllic British landscapes to late-night music festivals and cityscapes.

Google Play Store link »

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16. Cardboard Camera

16. Cardboard Camera

Cardboard Camera is a relatively new app from Google designed exclusively for Cardboard. It lets users take, 360-degree panoramic 3D photographs, that can then be viewed using the headset.

Annoyingly, there's no way to share the photos with others yet, but it's still a neat tool.

Google Play Store link »

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